Say what you will about Kris Russell's partial 2015-16 season as a Dallas Star, it was certainly never boring.
After months of trade speculation Russell was finally dealt on February 29th, the day of the trade deadline, from the Calgary Flames to the Stars. The hefty return going back to Calgary of young defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka, forward prospect Brett Pollock and a conditional pick (now officially a 2nd rounder, 55th overall) garnered much criticism and heavy debate because of Russell's poor possession numbers during his time with the Flames.
To his credit, however, Russell was asked to step directly into a big role on the Dallas blueline and was quite solid early on. John Klingberg suffered a lower-body injury not long after the trade, removing him from the lineup for a few games, and head coach Lindy Ruff elevated Russell to the top line in his place. The 29 year-old defender from Caroline, Alberta would end up logging an average of 24:01 of ice time over 11 regular season games for the Stars, putting up much better stats than he had in Calgary while still bringing some of the signature shot-blocking prowess that he had come to be known for.
It could easily be argued that the Stars, who finished a mere one point ahead of the St. Louis Blues to claim the Central Division and Western Conference titles with a total of 109 points on the season, would not have been able to do so without the timely addition of Russell.
Things seemed to be rolling along smoothly, even throughout the first round playoff series victory over the Minnesota Wild...until round two against the St. Louis Blues happened.
Russell and his partner that series, Jason Demers, were brutally victimized at the hands of the Blues. St. Louis had an obvious gameplan from the get-go, to use their big size and heavy forecheck to inflict punishment on the small Stars defenders, and it worked to perfection against the Russell-Demers duo. Dallas' blueline had effectively countered heavy forechecks all season long by using speed, smart puck movement and proper defensive-zone positioning to get themselves out of trouble, but Russell had serious trouble executing all of these key points once the chips were down.
Not only was it a disappointing end to the season for Russell, it also might have been end to his entire tenure with the Stars.
He is one of four free agent defensemen on the team heading into the summer. General manager Jim Nill definitely won't sign all four, and there's a small chance that might not even sign any, so Russell's future with the organization is certainly up in the air. Which version of him does Nill think would be the most likely one next season?
What say you, Stars fans?
Vote now: Rate Russell on a scale of A to F (A being the best of course) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season.